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Feed your back burner

English: Sopa de albondigas or Mexican meatbal...Image via Wikipedia

It's soup season. Don't you just love the aroma of a hearty pot of soup that's been simmering all afternoon when you walk into the house after a long winter's day at the office or in the field? I do. 

Our creative minds work kind 'a like that stock pot full of soup on the back burner of your stove.

The back burner of our minds work in much the same way as the back burner of a stove, slowly brewing a pot of vegetables and broth into a delicious, succulent feast of soup. All we have to do is put each of the ingredients in the pot, stir them up, and then leave them alone to cook, only periodically adding a dash of this or that and stirring the pot.

A soup on the back burner needs to cook slowly; if we cook it too fast, the flavors don't blend properly or we burn the ingredients. The back burner of a stove requires little attention; we can cook something else on the front burner at the same time.

Putting problems and decisions on the back burner does two things according to Richard Carlson and Joseph Bailey in Slowing Down to the Speed of Life:

  • It allows us to slow down to the moment and attend to what is happening now and enjoy our lives.
  • It puts our most creative and intelligent thinking to work on issues that we have no immediate answer for.

We can solve problems with far greater ease if we feed our back burners. Try intentionally setting on your back burner a pot of problems, a handful of possible solutions, facts, and a timetable for when you need an answer. Like the ingredients of a soup, the thoughts you put on the back burner must now be left alone to cook properly while you go about the daily responsibilities of being a leader.

When you revisit the problem after it's simmered a while, you'll find the ingredients have come together in a way that will surprise you. And the solutions that surface will be much different -- and better -- than what you'd have gotten by turning up the heat and rushing the process.

It's like Emil Vollmer, the inventor, said years ago, "The challenge is the thing. I might not get the answer right away. I might have to walk away, have a cup of coffee, but when I come back, the idea comes to me."

- Shirley Poertner

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Shirley, I love the image of soup being on the back burner in letting our problems and decisions to just wait without rushing them. Thanks for writing this blog about this. Sounds, and is, contemplative!

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